Remain with us, O Lord

Icon of the Supper at Emmaus. Taken from boutique.flambeaux.fr

That priest I wrote about on March 25, who offered some guest lectures to the seminarians, had a few more insights he shared with me outside of classroom that he gave me permission to (anonymously) share here. He’s been retired for a number of years. This priest, whom I will call Fr. C here, is a phenomenal priest, salt of the earth. After he spoke, I wrote these comments to a colleague about him:

Father C was in rare form today.

Pure grit poetry. Wonderfully off point, but absolutely on point.

As he spoke, I couldn’t help but think of what an Anglican biblical scholar I heard in Tallahassee – Dr. Kenneth Bailey – said: “For Jesus, the story was not simply an illustration of some greater concept, an anecdote, as it was for the Greeks. Rather, for Jesus, and for Semitic minds in general, the story is the point because reality is really an extended narrative; and divine revelation is not an idea, but a sojourning event.”

So, I love to say: hearing him speak is an event you go to, but an event that happens to you; a living text that reads you.

His Mass this morning [he celebrated a private Mass I attended] – it was an event, words that happen in and to you, and leave you shaken to the core. Also, whenever I’m around him, I feel more human. Wild, eh? But faith makes us more human, not less, right? But how rare it is in my experience to be with someone who can really make that happen — seemingly — all at once. Divinization is so obviously humanization when you’re around Fr. C.

In fact the way he told the story of “Joe” in the psych-ward yesterday — so gut wrenching — was so compelling in its truth, I don’t think I’ll ever examine my conscience the same again with that inhabiting my imagination.

Wow.

Below is some of his simple, yet profound wisdom that I noted in my journal:

+++

Fr. C said:

At this point in my life as a priest, it’s clear to me that all our frenetic busyness — all our busy busy busy and all our talking talking talking — so often masks our emptiness. Our pain. We distract ourselves; we’re masters of distraction. Who wants to face it? … All I want now, all I hope for now, is that the Lord lets me sit at His feet and listen to His voice; and just let Him know I’m there, listening. All relationships fall in place when that one is right … If you can listen to Him, and stay with Him, you can speak with authority; with power. His power. But if you don’t listen, it’s all just blah blah blah and going to an early grave. But for what?

Many years ago I was called by a family to minister to a young man. He was 24. He’d been burned over 95% of his body because he ran into a burning house to rescue his roommate. His family had traveled from the other side of the country and called me to visit him in the burn unit … He was naked, strung out in the net over the water and the nurses were carefully picking the dead skin off of him with tweezers. His eyes were fused shut. I came over to him, told him I was priest and asked if I could anoint him. He painfully nodded. I anointed him, as I could, and as I did I could see the nurses all were weeping. Then I absolved him and gave him communion. I told him I would come every day to stay with him. His family left and never returned again. Not even for the funeral. I don’t know why. One day, while I was with him, he tried to pull the tubes out of his throat, and I asked him to stop. I got the nurses. He gasped toward me and said in a gurgling voice: “Tubes-not-in-YOUR-throat.” But we stopped him. He slowly died over those two weeks, suffocated from the fluid build-up. I was helpless to do anything but be with him and pray. That’s when you really get to know Christ, in your face, at your nose. No sky-Jesus. Nailed-Jesus. The Cross. I could see Jesus slowly dying in him, helpless with him. There’s nothing to say, or do. You just stay with him. Emmanuel. Mane nobiscum, Domine, quoniam advesperascit, “Stay with us, O Lord, for evening comes…” (Luke 24:29). That’s our faith. It’s awesome. So much pain without hope in the world. If only Catholics knew this and lived the Gospel, this Gospel, what a different world we’d have.

Someone was telling me recently about the elaborate strategic plan their parish had devised .. I know you have to be prudent and plan and make it all practical; I get that … but I said to him, “That’s all fine, but don’t forget we have to start by reading the Gospel! The Gospel is where it’s at. It’s all there. The whole strategic plan of God.”

That last quote totally reminded me of a line in St. John Paul II’s Novo Millenio Inuente, where he says in #29:

“I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). This assurance, dear brothers and sisters, has accompanied the Church for two thousand years, and has now been renewed in our hearts by the celebration of the Jubilee. From it we must gain new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires our journey of faith. Conscious of the Risen Lord’s presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37).

We put the question with trusting optimism, but without underestimating the problems we face. We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!

It is not therefore a matter of inventing a “new program”. The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This program for all times is our program for the Third Millennium.

15 comments on “Remain with us, O Lord

  1. cg says:

    The faithful when dying are conformed to the crucified Christ and will rise with the risen Christ. Mysterium Fides.

  2. Harbans says:

    Belief in our Lord is sufficient to ignite our love for Him. His peace would remain in us with this sincere belief.

    rEGARDS

  3. Jennifer says:

    Everything in this post is making me weep this morning. “If only Catholics knew this and lived the Gospel, this Gospel, what a different world we’d have.” I was at one of those very new-program type events last night in what was supposed to be a catechetical session on the Eucharist, concluding with adoration before the Tabernacle, it turned into a trashing of the Church’s teaching on the True Presence and an outpouring of praise for a story we were told of a priest who allegedly welcomed all the non-catholics to come up and receive the Eucharist at some wedding some time. And the insinuation was very much, “well you can get all hung up on those cruel, exclusionary church teachings or you can actually go out there and do some volunteer work like real Catholics like us.” What a false dichotomy! What an insult to Christ’s sacrifice! What a misunderstanding of life in Him. Would Fr. C have been able to stay by this poor young man’s bedside and recognize Christ in him and love him and pray for him as he did if he did not first know Christ intimately and deeply? Could any of the great saints who spent hours and hours in prayer before going out to love and serve in radical, self-sacrificing ways have had the capacity or the will without Him? And the worst part, the reason I am so upset with this is that before my faith-awakening and reversion it was me, who as a young women who proudly believed this same false dichotomy and looked with scornful judgement on those who spent so much time in prayer, truly confounded by them. I don’t know if I am even coming close to making the point I am trying to make but I have to make breakfasts and lunches now so I will leave it at that.

    J

    • Exceptional, especially as a story of seeing it first otherwise, J. Very helpful for me, and I am sure for others. You remind me of Dorothy Day in so many ways, this being one of them — she herself evolved over time from one side of this position to the other. Can I recommend this book for you some time — in your free time! 🙂 — Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest? God bless your breakfasts and lunches! Off to ours now, too. 🙂

  4. Jennifer says:

    I am honoured, stunned really, by this comparison. Dorothy Day is my absolute favourite not-yet-a-saint saint. I have not yet read this biography but have nearly memorized “The Long Loneliness” and I was thinking very much of her when I mused about the saints, she’s my girl. Thank you.

  5. Dismas Dancing says:

    “Rejoice, heavenly powers, sing choirs of angels…” (Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil)

    “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance.” Luke 15:7

    Last night I rejoiced with St Monica, understanding in a new way the treasure with which God rewarded her when her son, Augustine, found the God from whom he had been feverishly running. Last night, had I the means, I would have killed the fatted calf, called all of my friends, set off fireworks, presented a banquet of banquets for all at which I would have thrown a cloak of royalty around my prodigal, for he had returned home. Twenty-three long years, so like Augustine, he had been trying to outrun the “Hound of Heaven”, always in denial that he did not need a priest for absolution, he did not need a personal relationship with the Christ who founded an eternal place of refuge, he did not need anything Holy Mother Church had to offer.

    The cell phone rang, “Dad, I feel fifty pounds lighter and it feels so, so good!” (He had just returned from his first confession in twenty-three years). Speechless for a few moments to unwind the joyful constriction of my throat, I finally said, “Welcome back, son. Welcome back! Your voice is full of the blessings of the Holy Spirit. It’s that obvious that He has lifted the burden of twenty-three years of wandering. That is such good news. Thanks be to God. How do you feel?” What followed was nearly an hour of listening to my son shout out his joy over his return, for having listened to the “still, small voice” (story of Elijah), for having ignored the enemy’s repeated solicitations to begin running again. Oh, how powerful; how enriching; how joyful; how beautiful are His inscrutable ways!

    Because his (ours) is a long story, I’ll not include it here. I shall, however, do as I so often do on special occasions, and prepare a lengthier version for my own library of memories. It will be shared with him, his mother-in-law who, through his own example, will come into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil, and his six-year old daughter, who will finally be baptized Catholic during the same vigil. No greater gift! No greater Love!

    Yes, today, as the world is being frighteningly consumed by abject evil from all points of the compass, the Holy Spirit is active in answering the prayers of us Monicas (I am NO saint) who do exist and continue to pray in defiance of that evil. We continue to raise our prayers in eternal thanksgiving for bringing the lost sheep back to the fold. We pray for ourselves and other prodigals that they all “come back to me with all your heart” (Hosea) to once again enjoy the fruits of the Eucharistic banquet.

    Oh, dear Father in Heaven, through the power of Your Only Begotten Son’s redemptive Love and the Infinite Love of the Holy Spirit I humbly rejoice in your beneficence and give thanks for Your magnificent Easter gift to us, your unworthy servants. In accord with your merciful will, I ask that you watch over my son and his family and grant them wisdom and peace in their restored and newly-found faith. May Your Holy Mother Mary be with them always, and with us that she may gently guide us to joy with You forever through Christ Our Lord. Amen!

    Exultet!!!!!!

    DD

  6. numberonesinner says:

    Dearest thomas,
    Please ask your faithful readers to keep not only the Shaw family ,who lost their son Colton yesterday morning after he was removed from life support. Please also pray for the young man who made the errant throw that struck young Colton . I cannot imagine his pain. P.B.W.Y. all.
    N.O.S.

    • NOS — among the many pledges for prayer for Colton/family you see on NO these last few days, this one is from a mother who also lost her teen son not long ago:

      Beth says:
      March 30, 2015 at 7:41 am
      Tom, please let them know that I will keep them in my prayers.

  7. Dismas Dancing says:

    N.O.S., Will keep the young man and his family in my prayers. May he rest in peace.

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